Friday, March 04, 2005

Public Service Announcement - Speedometers 

Last evening I was telling a classmate my automotive woes, and she said she's had to have a bunch of stuff done to her car as well. She also expressed her surprise that her car has passed inspection the last couple of years, because her speedometer is broken.

Before I provide a recap of the rest of the conversation, let me point out that this woman is incredibly intelligent, funny, and outgoing. She always has the best questions and insights in class, and engages in complicated discussions and debates about many topics of current events and other matters.

However, last year we had another conversation in which I had to explain to her that her computer wouldn't run if the battery level was too low, even though she had her power cord and adapter plugged into it, if the cord and adapter weren't also plugged into the wall. She had gotten the impression that the big boxy adapter was a power storage unit. I explained about electricity, voltage, amps, etc. but clearly wasn't making any headway, so I translated it to: "You're computer can't eat the power that comes from the outlet, so the adapter turns it into food that your computer can eat." This she understood.

So regarding the speedometer:

RSLS: They don't test your speedometer during inspection. Your car is sitting still.
Intelligent But Not Mechanically Inclined Girl (IBNMIG): Right, it's in neutral.
RSLS: It's not moving. The speedometer only works when the car is moving.
IBNMIG: But they're revving the engine, so that should show up.
RSLS: The engine is running, but the car's not going anywhere. That would show up on the RPM gauge, but not the speedometer.
IBNMIG (triumphantly): Ah, but I don't have an RPM gauge!
RSLS: But the car has no speed. The SPEEDometer measures SPEED.
IBNMIG: But they're revving the engine, and turning the wheels.
RSLS: *Silent pause.*
RSLS: *Holds hands out in in wheel-like curves* These are the wheels. If they're doing this (*turns hands side to side*), it won't show up on the speedometer. If they're doing this (*rotates hands forward, with fingertips leading), it shows up on the speedometer. Even if they're doing this (*rotates hands backwards, with palms leading*), it won't show up. Only if the car is actually moving forward will it register on the speedometer.
IBNMIG: *Silent pause.* *Laughs.* Okay, this is good. Now you understand how my brain works. I think I get it. But really? It won't show up?

She then said she would test it on her car, but then realized she can't test it on her car, because her speedometer's broken. I suggested that she ask a friend whose car's speedometer does work if she can sit in that car and rev the engine a few times, so she can see the speedometer not in action. I think she pretty much believes me, but that she'll be testing the theory out this weekend.

Smart woman, I anticipate she will be a great attorney, but definitely not a geek.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:08 AM